Clay hoping for more chances this season with Sooners
AUG 06, 2013 4:21p ET
We've been here before. So has he, and now going into his final season with the Sooners, Clay's story is becoming a predictable one.
Maybe this is the season something changes.
Because once more, it's fall practice and Clay isn't the starting running back and isn't the talk of the town. Never has been, but here he is again, ready contribute and most certainly get the ball.
He always does.
Clay was a five-star recruit out of San Diego's Scripps Ranch High School, yet as a freshman he played in just nine games and had only 36 carries. Clay was a back-up, getting some action as a kick returner, but it was Demarco Murray and his 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns people focused on.
Then in 2011, Clay's sophomore season, he fell in behind junior college transfer Dominque Whaley. Whaley impressed. Came out of nowhere. Earned a scholarship after walking on.
Meanwhile, past Whaley, the talk wasn't about Clay, it was about freshman Brandon Williams, Jermie Calhoun. Even Jonathan Miller.
So, what happened? Whaley played amazing the first half of the season, but missed the second half after breaking an ankle. Calhoun and Miller quit the team and Williams participated, but it was Clay who saw action late in the year. It was Clay who was left as the best running option in the bowl game win over Iowa – nine carries, three catches. A kickoff return for 35 yards, but even after all the desertion, the thin running back roster and everything else, Clay still went into last season as another secondary option.
Last season, Dominique Whaley wasn't his old self, so the carries went to Damien Williams, who broke out against Texas and was really the one people were talking about.
Then Clay started in again. He averaged 6 yards per carry for the season, but was sensational against Iowa State, going for157 yards on 24 carries against Iowa State. Against Oklahoma State, Clay had the best run of his career – going 18 yards for the game-winning score in overtime.
"A lot of people are giving me praise for it," Clay said of the winning score. "But that's what the O-line does, that's what we did the whole day, grind the ball out. You know, we broke their willpower and it just so happened to be me in that (game-winning) position, and I stepped up and made that play."
Clay hasn't made every play the past three seasons, but he's made enough of them to have put together a productive career, but he's not exactly a name people are fired up to hear about heading into this season.
Because Williams caught most of the attention, rushing for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's the guy expected to go for more than 1,000 this year. Even Roy Finch, whose career has been enigmatic, is talked about before Clay.
"I'm shooting for 1,000 this year," Clay said. "Believe it or not. That's what my ultimate goal is. And we have to get this Big 12 and get this national championship. Whatever falls in between, falls in between."
For the past three years, Clay has fallen in between. A California kid who no one really knows. He's changed numbers three times, changed Twitter handles, too. But his game hasn't changed much. Just a reliable runner, seemingly overlooked.
"I knew I was capable of it the whole time," Clay said of his break-out game against Iowa State. "So that's what I'm shooting for every game this year."
Wonder if he'll get the chance?
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK